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How to Properly Use Gurneys in NEMT Transportation

Have you ever felt transporting patients on gurneys was more of a roller coaster than a gentle glide? 

This article explores best practices and guidelines for gurney use in non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT). These tips will help your team provide safer transportation to clients while protecting your drivers from injury during transport. 

Gurney vs. Stretcher: What’s the difference? 

Gurneys and stretchers are often confused. But they have distinct features and uses that NEMT providers should know.  

A gurney is a wheeled device that can be adjusted for patient comfort and safety. It has side rails and locking mechanisms and can elevate the head or feet of the patient. Gurneys are great for moving patients who need constant care or monitoring over long distances, such as in hospitals, NEMT vehicles, or other healthcare facilities. 

A stretcher is a simple device that consists of a flat canvas on a rigid frame. It is lightweight, portable, and can be carried by hand. Stretchers are ideal for emergencies where immediate medical attention is needed. They are best for transporting patients over short distances, such as from an accident scene to an ambulance. 

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How to Use a Gurney Like a Pro 

Transporting patients safely and efficiently with a gurney is crucial. Here’s how to do it correctly.


Before using a gurney, you must complete the proper checks and adjust as needed.  

  • Look for any signs of wear or damage on the gurney, especially the wheels, brakes, and adjustable parts. Make sure everything works properly and report any issues. 
  • Set the gurney to a height that is suitable for patient transfer. Consider the patient’s needs and the ease of transfer for you and your colleagues. 
  • Attach any medical devices or supplies the patient might need during transport to the gurney. Make sure they are stable and accessible. 

Moving the Gurney 

When you move the gurney, you need to be careful and attentive.  

  • Always lock the gurney’s wheels when you transfer the patient to or from the gurney. This will prevent the gurney from moving unexpectedly and causing harm. 
  • Move the gurney gently and smoothly to avoid disturbing the patient. Take wide turns and ask for help if you need to go through narrow spaces or doors. 
  • Always use the brakes when stopping the gurney, especially on slopes or ramps. This will keep the gurney in place and ensure safety. 

Transferring the Patient 

When you transfer the patient, you need to communicate with them effectively and ensure they are completely secure.  

  • Before you transfer the patient, explain to them what you will do and how they can help. This will reduce their anxiety and increase their cooperation. 
  • Use safe lifting practices when you transfer the patient, such as bending at the knees and keeping your back straight. This will prevent injury to you and the patient. 
  • Once the patient is on the gurney, use straps or rails to secure them firmly. Adjust them for the patient’s comfort, but do not compromise their safety. 

Adjusting the Gurney for Comfort and Safety 

You need to monitor and adjust the gurney when transporting the patient. 

  • Use the gurney’s adjustable features to position the patient comfortably, such as raising the head or legs. This will depend on the patient’s medical needs and preferences. 
  • Check regularly to ensure the patient is not feeling any discomfort from pressure points on their body. Change their position as needed to relieve the pressure. 
  • Keep an eye on the patient’s condition and comfort level throughout. Be ready to change the gurney settings or stop the vehicle if the patient needs attention. 

Take These Safety Precautions 

A well-maintained gurney functions efficiently and reduces the risk of accidents.  

It’s critical to follow a strict schedule of checks and services outlined by the manufacturer’s guidelines, focusing on the wheels, brakes, and locking mechanisms. 

However, safety doesn’t stop at maintenance. Properly using gurney safety features, such as straps and side rails, is also essential in securing patients during transit. Ensuring these elements are appropriately adjusted to fit the patient comfortably and snugly can prevent falls and injuries. 

Safe handling practices, including team lifting and clear communication, are vital in the challenges of patient transfer. 

Focus Less on Logistics and More on Care  

With Tobi, you can streamline your daily operations and enhance the care you provide to your patients.  

Tobi’s intuitive platform allows you to schedule rides, optimize routes, and track vehicles in real-time. These key features cater directly to the unique challenges that NEMT providers face. It also helps you facilitate smoother coordination between teams, ensuring that your service runs like a well-oiled machine.  

But what sets Tobi apart is its commitment to improving patient care through operational excellence. Its route optimization feature ensures that patients reach their appointments on time, every time, reducing stress and enhancing overall satisfaction.   

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